Monday, April 23, 2007

We can't celebrate the triumphs without recognizing the tragedy

Celerity Nascent Management's decision to ban the Emmett Till poem won’t diminish Emmett's stature in American history. His murder had enormous historical significance and impact. For one, it energized the modern day civil rights movement, months before Rosa Parks decided to not give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery Alabama. Emmett's murder had an enormous impact on African-American parents, young people and on American culture in general:
The murder of Emmett Till was felt deeply by African-Americans, civil rights activists and many others. Artistic works drawing on the incident include the first play by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, poems by Gwendolyn Brooks Langston Hughes, , and Audre Lorde, and a song by Bob Dylan called “The Death of Emmett Till.”

The James Baldwin play “Blues for Mister Charlie” is loosely based on the Emmett Till murder case. Well known legend and boxer Muhammad Ali, 13 years old at the time of the murder, said in an interview that the news of the Till murder had a profound effect on him and how he viewed his place in society and whites.

The 1990’s Alternative Rock band Emmet Swimming is named after Emmett Till. According to the band, “the idea of the name was basically that a 14-year-old boy should be swimming in the river, not dying in it.”

Other more recent fictionalized accounts include two award-winning novels: Bebe Moore Campbell’s Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992) and Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle (1993). The 2003 rap song “Through the Wire” by Kanye West uses the image of Till’s mutilated face to remind others of his physical appearance after a near-fatal car accident, demonstrating that after fifty plus years the murder is still firmly etched in our memory and American history.

We should never forget! We should indeed celebrate the triumphs but we cannot do that without remembering the tragedy. However uncomfortable...Emmett's case and this part of our history will not be erased!

Teachers Fired over Emmett Till Poem

In March it was reported that two teachers have been fired from a Los Angeles charter school because they planned to have students read a poem about Emmett Till. Till was the 14-year-old black youth lynched 57 years ago in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Administrators at a Los Angeles charter school forbade students from reciting a poem about civil rights icon Emmett Till during a Black History Month program recently, saying his story was unsuitable for an assembly of young children.

Teachers and students said the administration suggested that the Till case — in which the teenager was beaten to death in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a white woman — was not fitting for a program intended to be celebratory, and that Till's actions could be viewed as sexual harassment.

The decision by Celerity Nascent Charter School leaders roiled the southwest Los Angeles campus and led to the firing of seventh-grade teacher Marisol Alba and math teacher Sean Strauss, who had signed one of several letters of protest written by the students.

The incident highlights the tenuous job security for mostly nonunion teachers in charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently run. California has more than 600 charter schools, and their ranks continue to swell. According to the California Teachers Assn., staff at fewer than 10% of charter schools are represented by unions.

"I never thought it would come to this," said Alba, who helped her students prepare the Till presentation, in which they were going to read a poem and lay flowers in a circle. "I thought the most that would happen to me [after the event was canceled] is that I'd get talked to and it would be turned into a learning and teaching experience."

"Our whole goal is how do we get these kids to not look at all of the bad things that could happen to them and instead focus on the process of how do we become the next surgeon or the next politician," said Celerity co-founder and Executive Director Vielka McFarlane. "We don't want to focus on how the history of the country has been checkered but on how do we dress for success, walk proud and celebrate all the accomplishments we've made."

McFarlane said details of the Till case were too graphic for an assembly that included kindergartners. The principal, Grace Canada, could not be reached for comment. McFarlane, speaking for the school, said her review of the incident did not support the teachers' allegations that Canada had used the term sexual harassment to describe Till's behavior.

But Alba said that when the principal informed the class that they could not recite their poem, she gave the example of a construction worker whistling at her as she walked down the street.
"She said that she would be offended by that and that what Emmett Till did could be considered sexual harassment," said Alba. "She used the phrase a couple of times and when I objected, she said 'OK, inappropriately whistled at a woman.' "

Many parents said their children affirmed that account. Marcia Alston, mother of a seventh-grader, called the school to say she was appalled at its interpretation of history and the treatment of the teachers. She said that in the conversation, the principal used the term "rude" to describe Till's actions.

How should black history be taught in schools?

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 19, 2007


The Youth Rally attendees are being encouraged to respond to a simple pre-rally survey. See questions below.

Hear My Voice! Are you Listening?.............


Please respond to the following questions:

Q: What are the 3 most pressing issues facing you right now?

Q: What, if anything, do you plan to do about it?

Q: What do you think the future holds for you? next 3-5 years? next 5-10 years

Q: What and/or Who do you need to make it all happen?

Q: Are you registered to vote? yes_____ or no_____
if not , why?_____________________________________________

Please provide your:
first name
city, state, zip
current year in school
highest educational level achieved
name of employer/organization
email address.
copyright 2007 ETLF

Please send your answers no later than April 19th to: to qualify for a free gift.

Emmett Till Legacy Foundation is a 501c3 non profit organization. Send or mail your tax deductible contributions to our Minnesota address:
Emmett TillLegacy Foundation
1161 Wayzata Blvd. East Suite 43
Minneapolis, MN 55391
763 476 8677 MN location

Youth Rally April 21 in Memory of Emmett Till

For Immediate Release

Media contact:
Teri Watts
The Imani James group
1 888 509 9614 x80 hot line

All Youth are invited to let their voices be heard at unique rally
on the North side of Minneapolis!

[April 17, 2007, Minneapolis, MN] The Hip Hop, Faith Based, Political, Non Profit, Health Care, Education, Entertainment Communities, along with Public Officials, Celebrities, plus elders are coming together April 21, 2007 from 12-2 p.m. for a powerful Youth Rally at North High School, 1500 James Ave. North, Mpls, MN !

This non partisan event is a call for those ages 14-35 to Let their voices be heard at the 2nd Annual, Hear My Voice! Are You Listening? Stop the Violence, Civic and Political Engagement and Voter registration rally in memory of Emmett Till!

Hosted by B-Right with Radio Ones' B 96, Sheletta Brundidge, Assignment Editor KSTP TV/5 Eyewitness News and comedian. Dynamic speakers to raise the roof, include David Pederson from the MN Hip Hop Caucus, Ronnique Hawkins, film maker and founder of the Anti Lynching Movement from New York, Rev. Otis Clark, Youth pastor from Progressive Baptist Church, Saciido Shaie, a White House project/GO RUN! participant and board member of Somali Family Services, Pakou Hang former field director for the Minnesota chapter of America Votes and candidate for St. Paul City Council, Danielle Epps, Miss Minnesota International 2007, Giselle Urgarte Miss Teen Minnesota International 2007, Thandisizwe Jackson-Nisan, North High Student & 2006 National Ideal Miss America Teen along with Congressman Keith Ellison who will provide the welcome.

Get ready.....the talented and gifted performers include Youth from the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, Dance teams from North and Harding High School, Gospel and Hip Hop Gospel from the Gospel Soul Productions, Hip Hop from DIALEK, Music by TraXX and more!

Fitness Queen Sheila St. James will be on hand to provide healthy fitness and eating tips.

Carl Eller ( MN Viking Hall of Fame), Trent Tucker ( Trent Tucker Foundation, former NBA player), Troy Hudson and other Timberwolves and LYNX Players, Fred Robbins former MN Viking now a NY Giant, Dr. Maulana Karenga (author and creator of Kwanzaa and Nguzo Saba, the seven principles and guest of the U of M's Swahili day), local, state and federal public officials, political candidates and community leaders have all been invited to attend.

A ceremony led by elders (ages 36 & older) to pass the baton to the next generation will close out the 2007 annual rally.

For more information, call the Hear My line 1 888 509 9614 or send an email to

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